The Big Idea Workshop is a performance workshop for small groups of artists and non-artists to deeply explore a big idea in contemporary life as a prompt for creating new performance work. The workshop investigates a set subject through discussion, devising and developing dramatic ideas. We do not aim to solve any questions through the workshop itself, but to explore our own relationship to the theme, and to experiment with building stories and performance that relate to aspects of this question. I work throughout as the curator and instigator for the multimodal creative exploration. After the workshop, small groups will form and each will determine a performance project to develop collectively. I ran four week-long workshops on themes including Belief and Power. Six produced plays, two new companies, and a methodology for developing new music theatre have developed from this format.
In addition to artists, participants of the workshops have included Jack Cambria, head of the NYPD hostage negotiation team, Daniel Rose (whose speech for the Big Idea Workshop on Power was published in vol. 79 of Vital Speeches of the Day), Matthew Bickerton, physicist and computer programmer, and James O’Shea, ER physician. Incorporating participants from outside of artistic practice has a dynamic impact on the curation of the event. Who is generating content? What is the role of an artist? Who has the authority to create? These questions arise through the curated structure of the Big Idea Workshop.
This methodology became one of the case studies used in “Making it up as you go: Educating Military and Theater Practitioners in Design” which I co-authored with Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Lira, US Army, on complex and lateral approaches to designing training. It has also informed my ongoing collaboration with Jack Cambria, Head of the NYPD Hostage Negotiation Team (HNT), with whom I am working to develop an arts-based empathy training course for use within the HNT, informed in part by the Big Idea Workshop practices.